By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
MANHATTAN, Kans. - A year ago, the buzz in the Little Apple involved Bryce Brown. Kansas State needed a productive running back to replace Daniel Thomas, a work horse for two seasons, and Brown appeared to be the guy.
A native of Wichita, Brown had false-started his career at Tennessee and his move to the Wildcats came with much fanfare. The media selected Brown preseason All-Big 12.
And, oh by the way, his brother older Arthur was also becoming eligible after sitting out the 2010 season as a transfer from Miami (Fla.)
Bryce Brown's career lasted three games before he left the team. Arthur Brown became the Wildcats' middle linebacker, defensive leader and leading tackler with 101, including 9.5 for losses. He returns for his senior season as one of the nation's top defensive players.
''He's come out of his shell a little bit,'' defensive back Nigel Malone said of Brown. ''It's good for the team to see that, somebody who's high-profile like that. The best thing about him is that he's stayed the same even through all the success.''
As his comfort level has increased, so has Brown's willingness to talk. Brown even enjoyed a recent trip to ESPN headquarters for the "car wash," a series of interviews on the cable giants various platforms.
"He talks a lot now," junior linebacker Tre' Walker said. "Arthur was always humble and didn't say too much. He didn't speak a lot at all. He was always very quiet and kept to himself. But we found out really quick that he could talk with his pads."
Brown said that spending two disappointing seasons with Miami helped shape him into a mature person and player.
"I recognized opportunities that were there for me to maybe step out and encourage or correct my teammates," Brown said. "It's about recognizing the opportunity more than anything and taking advantage of it... Everything just followed after that."
Brown's sideline to sideline tackling ability helped the Wildcats improve from being one of the nation's worst teams against the run. In 2010, K-State opponents averaged 231 yards per game rushing; last season, they allowed 131 yards per game.
The Wildcats must replace five starters on defense but Brown anchoring the middle of the 4-3 alignment gives Kansas State a solid base on which to rebuild.
"One of the main reasons I came back to play this year was to embrace this opportunity and grow and develop as a leader under Coach (Bill) Snyder," said Brown, who considered skipping his senior season and applying for the NFL Draft. "With the guys on the team, they really help that development as well. It's about being able to build those relationships that are longer lasting than any NFL career."
Pushing For Playing Time
Junior John Hubert was a productive accomplice to quarterback Collin Klein last season. Hubert gained 970 yards on 200 carries. Barring an injury, Hubert is a lock to be the starting running back. But that isn't keeping Angelo Pease, Robert Rose and DeMarcus Robinson from competing for the job.
"I don't think we are working towards a backup running back spot since we're in camp right now," Pease told the Manhattan Mercury. "The spot is open and whoever is doing the best will be the guy at the beginning of the season. That's how I look at it."
Even if Hubert figures to be the starter who gets a majority of the carries, the competition should be beneficial.
"I think when you go into camp you can't have a group of guys looking to compete for second string or third string," Rose said. "If you compete and everybody wants to be a starter, that's how you push teammates and make a competitive atmosphere. At the end of the day I think it's a healthy competition that keeps any of us ready."
* Senior quarterback Collin Klein has worked diligently in the offseason to improve his passing. Last season he had 1,918 yards passing. Of the five quarterbacks who played for more than one season under Bill Snyder, four increased their passing totals in their final season. Chad May, Michael Bishop, Jonathan Beasley and Ell Roberson all threw for more than 2,500 yards as seniors.
* Redshirt freshman Daniel Sams and freshman Tavarius Bender appear to be the top candidates to be Collin Klein's backup.
* Kansas State returns six of the top seven pass receivers from last season but none finished in the top 10 in the Big 12 as the Wildcats finished last in the Big 12 in passing offense. "They took it as a challenge to be better than we finished last year," said K-State receivers coach Michael Smith. "We get the bad rap of being a bad receiving corps ... I'm looking for great things from them."
* Tom Hayes replaces Chris Cosh as the Wildcats' defensive coordinator. On a staff headed by 73-year-old Bill Snyder, the 63-year-old Hayes can be considered a youngster. Hayes has worked in eight different college systems including stops at UCLA, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. He also has coached in the NFL with Washington and New Orleans.